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Supports to Address Narcotic Addiction in Ontario

Archived Backgrounder

Supports to Address Narcotic Addiction in Ontario

Ministry of Health

Expert Working Group on Narcotic Addiction

The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care formed the Expert Working Group on Narcotic Addiction following the removal of OxyContin from the Canadian market in March 2012. The working group was asked to provide advice on strategies to lessen the effect of prescription opioid addiction in Ontario and strengthen the existing addictions treatment system.  This was done in anticipation of an increase in demand for addiction treatment, counselling and withdrawal management services.

Working group members represented a broad range of expertise, including health care professionals, community service providers, representatives from First Nations communities, and people who have experienced narcotic addiction.

The working group's report contains recommendations that reflect the following areas:

  • Health promotion.
  • Education and other supports to build knowledge of health services.
  • Community development and engagement.
  • Access to high quality services and treatment for people addicted to opioids.
  • Harm reduction initiatives that include providing safer drug use equipment, improving nutrition, and providing opioid substitution therapies such as methadone or Suboxone. 
  • Research to improve understanding of prescription narcotic use and addiction.

New investments based on the report's recommendations build on earlier initiatives undertaken by the government, including:

  • Telemedicine -  The Ontario Telemedicine Network purchased 130 new units of telemedicine equipment to expand access to addiction treatment and consultation for people in remote and rural communities; 
  • Overdose Prevention Kit Training and Supplies -  The Ontario Harm Reduction Distribution Program purchased Naloxone for use in more overdose prevention kits distributed throughout the province and trained front-line workers on use of the kits
  • Surveillance - 73 emergency departments were trained on how to spot opioid overdose and withdrawal Ontario.
  • Narcotics Monitoring System - Implemented in May 2012, the narcotics monitoring system is designed to monitor prescription narcotics and controlled substances dispensed in Ontario. The system is already providing real-time alerts to pharmacists, which is improving patient care. The information being collected will be used to promote appropriate prescribing, dispensing and use of narcotics and other controlled drugs.

Generic OxyContin

In an effort to address concerns about the abuse and misuse of prescription narcotics, Ontario has called on Health Canada to consider the health and safety effects of generic OxyContin and prohibit its sale in Canada when the OxyContin brand patent expires in this fall.  Ontario's position on generic OxyContin was recently supported by Canada's provincial health ministers.

Open Minds, Healthy Minds

Open Minds, Healthy Minds, is Ontario's Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, aimed at creating a more co-ordinated system to respond to mental health issues and addictions. The first three years focus on children and youth in order to identify and intervene as early as possible for better health outcomes and addiction prevention.

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